Ed Tech: What now?
Making Tech Work for Teachers
The holiday season has come to a close; the New Year is in. Chances are you received some sort of technology as a gift. Or perhaps it’s going to be time to upgrade your mobile phone. Maybe you already had something like a tablet (like a Kindle Fire or iPad) and so far you have been limited to checking email or watching videos. Well, that technology tool (yes, tool!) can be way more useful than that. So what do you do once you have maxed out on Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga? Read on to find out.
There are a ton of educational apps and sites available today. In fact, it would be impossible to name or use them all. However, as a teacher, I do have some that I use regularly and would hate to be without for my classes. This month I will be sharing a few tools (2 of each category) I use as a classroom teacher: online planners and LMSs.
All of the items discussed here are free. (Note: some have paid versions with more bells and whistles.) Also, you are not just limited to mobile technology here. The items reviewed here can also be used on a regular desktop or laptop computer as well as phone or tablet apps. Take a look at these to see if they might work for you.
Topic Feature: Teacher Lesson Planning & Classroom Logistics
PlanbookEdu is a web-based teacher lesson planning site that looks very familiar to teachers as it resembles a traditional lesson plan book (grid). The beauty of PlanbookEdu is that there is nothing to install and you can access your information from anywhere. It supports all major browsers and offers word-processing like editing. PlanbookEdu allows you to customize your plans to your schedule whether it’s weekly, A/B rotation, or a variety of other schedules. The paid version is $25 and offers many other useful options like Common Core Standards, attaching files to your plans, sharing with colleagues, embedding on your site, and more. Check it out at http://www.planbookedu.com/ .
Planboard is another web-based planning tool for educators. Planboard allows access anywhere and also has the feel of a word-processor for lesson entry. Planboard’s free version allows direct links to websites in the plan as well as file attachments. While you cannot embed it (yet), you can link to your plans. Collaboration is also available on the free version. Planboard is customizable to your schedule and even offers color coding to help keep you organized. See what others are saying and view for yourself at https://www.planboardapp.com/ .
Schoology is a free, safe learning management system (LMS) that allows you to create classes that your students join for collaboration and learning. From there you can make assignments (with or without a drop box for submissions), host a discussion board, make and administer online assessments (in varied formats such as free response, multiple-choice, true false, etc.). You can build/use rubrics, assign grades and award badges all within Schoology. The free version is very customizable and flexible. The user-interface is very intuitive. In addition, Schoology has groups that one can join. For example, I belong to several of the “teacher groups” which gives me a great PLN (professional learning network). Schoology offers apps for Android and i-devices. Another plus: you can link you Google account to allow even more options. Take a look at the demo video at www.schoology.com .
Edmodo is another safe learning management system for teachers and students. Collaboration, discussions, assignment, badges are all available on Edmodo in an environment that is easy to navigate and intuitive for students. On Edmodo teachers can connect to other colleagues and resources. Edmodo also allows users to link Google accounts so those resources can be available to them in the interface. This is a big deal as more schools become GAFE schools. Neither of these LMSs require a student to have an email to sign up. Both use an alpha-numeric code to link students into their classes. Watch the informational video to see if this is right for you: https://www.edmodo.com/ .
These tools have allowed me to have more organized, less paper-laden classes that go beyond the bounds of my classroom walls. Add one more resolution for this year: try a new technology. As with all resolutions, don’t over-do it. Just take a look and give one a chance for 3rd quarter. Maybe try another 4th quarter. Take it slow, see what works. It’s well worth the effort!
Jennifer S. – Ohio Teacher – Grades 6-8